Sunday, October 1, 2023

Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell

Learning about Artificial Intelligence's Impact on Writing

Marilyn Carnell, PhD

I recently became aware of a technological change that either frightens or is welcomed by computer users. It is called “AI” for artificial intelligence. At an earlier time, it was better known as an abbreviation for animal breeding practices that were not appropriate for parlor talk. The impact of artificial Intelligence on the writing profession is now a topic of hot debate. After reading the responses generated by AI, I don’t think humans need to be alarmed….yet.

Below are examples of two sites that are free for experimental use – ChatGPT and Bard. I have a keen interest in McDonald County History so I asked the same question of both: “What happened in McDonald County in 1862?” Each gave three drafts of an article in response. I chose to share one draft from each. My comments are inserted in red ink.


In 1862, McDonald County, located in the state of Missouri, was primarily affected by the ongoing American Civil War. While there may not be any specific notable events recorded for that particular county during that year, it is important to understand the broader context of the region during the Civil War. ChatGPT is often inaccurate in my experience. It is programmed to be like an overly friendly buddy. If challenged, it apologizes profusely and makes another guess. Usually, it isn’t correct either.

Missouri was a border state during the American Civil War, meaning it had residents and factions supporting both the Union (Northern states) and the Confederacy (Southern states). The state experienced significant unrest and violence throughout the war as rival factions clashed. red This is true and especially relevant in McDonald County. There were four candidates for president in 1860. The county votes were as follows: John Bell (Constitutional Union) 138, John Breckinridge (Southern Democrat) 195, Stephen Douglas (Democrat), Abraham Lincoln (Republican) 3. The majority of voters favored southern candidates, but a significant number supported the north.

McDonald County, located in the southwestern part of Missouri, was generally sympathetic to the Confederacy. However, due to its remote and rural nature, it did not witness major battles or engagements like other areas in the state. Instead, the county faced sporadic guerrilla warfare, raids, and skirmishes between pro-Union and pro-Confederate irregular forces.

It is clearer to say that McDonald County is located in the southwest corner of the state. Although technically not in Missouri, the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas (March 7-8, 1862) was very close to the Missouri state line and affected the area severely. Many of the dead were buried in the nearby Roller (Missouri) cemetery.

Missouri's border region, including McDonald County, became a hotbed for guerrilla warfare with infamous groups such as Quantrill's Raiders, led by William Quantrill, and other irregular bands operating in the area. These groups frequently engaged in hit-and-run tactics, targeting both military installations and civilian populations, leading to a state of lawlessness and insecurity.

While specific events in McDonald County during 1862 may not be widely documented, the general atmosphere of violence, raids, and guerrilla warfare associated with the American Civil War would have likely affected the county during that time. See the Bard answer below: It records several events that occurred in McDonald County in 1862. It is important to note that for a comprehensive understanding of the local history and specific events in McDonald County during that year, consulting local historical records, archives, or local historians would provide more precise information. 



In 1862, Missouri was a border state during the American Civil War, and McDonald County was a hotbed of guerrilla activity. The county was controlled by the Confederacy for most of the year, but Union troops made several incursions.

Here are some of the events that happened in McDonald County in 1862:

  • February 17: A small skirmish took place on Sugar Creek between Union and Confederate forces. It is not recorded anywhere to my knowledge which Sugar Creek was the scene of the skirmish. It could have been either Big or Little Sugar Creek.
  • March: Union General Franz Sigel led an expedition into McDonald County to remove Confederate troops. The expedition was successful, and Union forces occupied Pineville, the county seat, for several weeks.
  • June 23: A skirmish took place at Pineville between the Second Wisconsin Cavalry and the Confederates under Major David Russell. The Confederates were defeated, with the loss of several prisoners and considerable property.
  • August 12: The Battle of Pineville took place between Companies I, K, and M, 3rd Battalion, 6th Cavalry under Captain Abe Allen and troops under Captain John T. Coffee. During this battle, county records were destroyed.According to the source cited below, this happened on August 12, 1863. Also note that county records were destroyed when a group of bushwhackers led by Bill Hinson, burned the courthouse and destroyed the records in 1863. If using AI, it is important to fact-check.

In addition to these skirmishes and battles, McDonald County citizens suffered greatly from border warfare throughout the war. Both Union and Confederate forces raided the county, stealing food and livestock and killing civilians.

The war had a devastating impact on McDonald County. By the end of the war, the county's population had declined by nearly half. Other sources say the population was decimated by the end of the war with very few occupants.

Suggest opening link in new tab. 1.

Civil War Incidents in McDonald County includes dates County Records Destroyed.

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